A year abroad as part of your degree gives you the chance to challenge yourself personally in a different academic and cultural environment.
It's also proof to employers that you’re adaptable, independent and globally aware.
Where you can go
Most departments offer opportunities for you to complete a year of your degree at an institution within Europe. It may be possible to study further afield, for example in the USA, Australia or Singapore, through partnerships developed by your department.
We have chosen our exchange partners carefully. Not only do they include some of the world’s best universities, they offer a comparable level of teaching in your subject field. This means that the year you spend abroad will count directly towards your Imperial degree.
Additionally, we have recently launched a new student exchange programme with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
If you are already learning a language, immersing yourself in the country where it is spoken is a great way to take your fluency to the next level. And in the multinational job market, graduates with language skills are in demand.
Knowing the language of the host country to an acceptable level is required before embarking on a year abroad in Europe. However, we make exceptions for a year abroad in the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries.
Where teaching is in English rather than the host language, the level of proficiency you need to achieve is normally lower.
Find information on language requirements and language tuition in the curriculum for the course you're interested in.
We offer a range of specialist Language for Science degrees in the Departments of Chemistry and Life Sciences for students who wish to pursue language study to an advanced standard alongside their scientific studies.
In addition, our Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication offer evening classes in French, German, Italian and Spanish – among many other languages such as Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Russian – at various levels.
There is also a language lab for self-study, and a Language Pairs scheme to partner you with a native or near-native speaker in the language you want to learn for practice on an exchange basis.
We also have many opportunities to study in English-speaking countries, like the USA and Singapore.
Who can go
Places are normally offered on a competitive basis to students performing above a certain academic standard. This is usually a 2:1 at the time of selection. Selection takes place in the year before your year abroad. The academic standard must then be maintained until you go abroad.
Funding and finance
Students who spend an academic year abroad retain their student status at Imperial. This means they normally remain eligible for the same government support they would be at home, such as loans and grants.
UK-based students studying in Europe receive a grant is they are studying through the Swiss-European Mobility Programme or the European Union's Erasmus+ programme. Grants are courtesy of the European Union or the Swiss Government, as applicable. This grant helps you with the additional costs of studying abroad.
This currently applies up to 2020-21. The situation for taking study abroad in 2021-22 onwards is not known yet.
As an exchange student, you do not pay tuition fees to the host institution abroad.
We offer significant discounts on its tuition fees for UK and EU students for the year spent abroad. This means it could work out cheaper overall, particularly where the year directly replaces a year at Imperial. However, this situation is subject to change.
Occasionally year abroad places are approved at universities with which we do not have exchange agreements. This means you need to pay a tuition fee to your host university and a fee to Imperial.
Other overseas opportunities
If a study abroad degree is not currently available in your department, or you don’t wish to spend an entire academic year abroad, there are still plenty of ways for you to add an international dimension to your Imperial experience. This includes:
- undertaking a work placement outside the UK (if your visa allows it) – visit our Placement and Internship Unit for help in getting started
- organising an international research expedition through the Imperial College Exploration Board
- joining a student society within Imperial College Union that organises overseas activities like:
- Engineers without Borders, which involves a mixture of hands-on projects and training for students to show them how they can use their engineering skills to help those most in need.
- Global Brigades, which sees student volunteers travel to Central America and Africa to establish mobile medical clinics in under-resourced communities.
- El Salvador, a charitable volunteer project, which provides engineering solutions to poor communities in El Salvador, who frequently face devastating earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides.
- E.quinox, a social enterprise project, which works by providing rural communities in developing countries with portable battery boxes from a kiosk, where they are charged up using solar energy.
- Project Nepal, which organises an annual trip to Nepal in the summer to help the local community.